Happy Endings by Thien-Kim Lam
May 18, 2021, by Avon
Up until about the last 20% of this book, I really loved it and it was a solid 5-star book for me. The female main character, Trixie, is a Vietnamese American who, much to her parent’s dismay, sells sex toys for a living. It was a second chance romance with her ex-boyfriend, Andre, who had dumped her via a post it note when he learned about his mother’s cancer diagnosis (this all happens way before the book begins). I loved the sex positivity in the book, loved how determined and ambitious Trixie was regardless of how much her parents did not approve of her career aspirations.
Sadly, the reason it became a 3 star is that at a certain point in the book, Andre, who is desperately trying to save his late mother’s restaurant from having to shut down due to neighborhood gentrification raising rent prices, gives Trixie an ultimatum: she can either follow her dream of opening her own sex toy business in one of these gentrified neighborhoods or she can have him, but she can’t have both. It was at that point that I lost any goodwill for Andre. He was already skating on thin ice for me because seriously, he broke up with Trixie over a post it note and the groveling to get her back was a little bit light. But having his own pride and ego get in the way of accepting help and sharing his burdens and then forcing Trixie to make a choice between him or her dreams really made it difficult for me to root for him as a love interest. And in a romance, if you can’t root for the main characters to be together, then what even is the point?
CW: parental death from cancer prior to beginning of the book; parental illness and hospitalization; difficult relationship with parents
Talk Bookish to Me by Kate Bromley
May 25, 2021, by Grayson House
Real talk: I didn’t even finish this book. In fact, I only made it to the 10% mark before I was forced to throw in the towel. But a lot has been packed into that 10% mark: there’s the fatphobic commentary, the part where two random women at a party are called prostitutes, a casual joke about suicide, and the “hero” states that historical romance is literary porn. And listen, I’m not one to yuck anyone’s yum so if that all sounds like your jam, have at it.
I will also add, that spoilery reviews abound on Goodreads and they informed me that in this second chance romance between romance writer Kara and her first love, Ryan, while they spend much of the book renewing their romance, at the 75% it’s revealed that Ryan (our “hero”) is actually engaged and has basically been cheating on his fiancée with the heroine. Again, I’m not one to judge but a romance where the two main characters are embarking on an affair while one of them is actually engaged to someone else is kind of a hard no for me.
It’s truly unfortunate that the author made the plot choices she did because the blurb sounded really promising and as this is a debut novel, I was very much looking forward to the possibility of maybe discovering a brand new voice in romance. However, given all the problematic elements just in the first 10% of the book, I’m not so keen on trying her again.
CW: infidelity, fatphobic commentary, slut-shaming